Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
Thousands of citizens from neighbouring countries have flocked to Belgrade after Serbian authorities offered foreigners free coronavirus vaccinations over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
The agency states that "long lines" of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Northern Macedonia were "formed" in front of the vaccination centre at the Belgrade Fair, in the presence of the police.
However, Croatian citizens have also been traveling to Serbia to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as the rollout of the vaccine in Croatia is crippling slow. “I’m going to Belgrade, I will pay my 60 Euros and get vaccinated. God knows when I’ll get on the list in Croatia,” commented a middle-aged man in Dubrovnik.
Most of Serbia's neighbours have a problem with the lack of vaccines and have barely started immunizing the population, while Serbia "boasts sufficient supplies and one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe," the AP said, recalling that the Belgrade government donated the vaccine to northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Serbia has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, mostly thanks to the purchase of large quantities of vaccines from China and Russia, according to AP, adding that vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and AstraZeneca are also used in Serbia. The vaccination process in Croatia has been slowed down greatly due to a problem with the distribution of AstraZeneca vaccines. With the Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, stating this week that “Croatia has received 17 percent of the ordered doses of AstraZeneca.” Adding that “We are in a bad position because the doses that were ordered did not come.”
In the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, 52 new cases of coronavirus infection were recorded in the last 24 hours (13 determined by a rapid antigen test).
These are 19 people from Dubrovnik, 16 from Orebic, two from Blato, Dubrovacko Primorje, Konavle, Metkovic, Vela Luka and Župa, one person from Ston and four people who do not reside in the county.
A total of 26 males and 26 females were infected, and 33 had an established epidemiological link.
Two men from Dubrovnik died in the past 24 hours (born in 1936 and 1942).
48 people made a full recovery in the past 24 hours - 17 from Dubrovnik, ten from Metković, nine from Župa dubrovačka, five from Ploče, two from Konavle and one each from the Dubrovacko primorje, Orebić, Pojezerje and Slivno, as well as one person who does not reside in the county.
In the last 24 hours, 248 samples were processed, and since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 53,167 samples have been analysed, or approximately 44 percent of the population of the county.
67 people tested positive for coronavirus are currently hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital. Nine patients require intensive care, of which six are on invasive and three on non-invasive ventilation.
There are 1,416 people in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours there have been five violations of the self-isolation measure (two at the border).
The Minister of Labour and Pensions, Josip Aladrović, commented on the continuation of financial support for employers and workers in Croatia, a scheme that was introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The government has been assisting the private sector financially with a range of measures, from contributing to salaries to reliving tax obligations. It had been reported that the measures would continue for at least a few months more, however it would appear that the county’s budget is feeling the pinch.
"As much as necessary, we will be available, but both workers and employers must be aware of the fiscal constraints of the state budget," said Aladrović, referring to aid for job preservation, which works out at 4,000 Kuna a month for each employee. He added that “The state budget has its limits and limitations," seemingly sending a clear message that the benefits will be stopped soon.
It is known that the monthly payments will continue in April, as the Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, has already announced the subsidies would carry on until the end of April. However, no decision has yet been announced for after April. But Minister Aladrović was up front yesterday when he stated that “The state budget has its limits and limitations and it is very debatable how long it can last."
If payments are indeed stopped in May, as seem likely after the Minister’s statement, this would certainly put a strain on the tourism industry, an industry that has already been decimated by the pandemic. And the knock-on effect on another poor tourist season in Croatia for this winter period could be significant. Will the summer season be able to refill the state budget to pay benefits through the winter? Or will the vaccine mean that travel is allowed earlier than expected? The coming months will go some way to answer these questions. The only thing that seems clear is that the country’s budget is being strained to breaking point.
Seeing tourists in Dubrovnik on any description at the moment is relatively rare, but seeing two on low bicycles well that’s extremely rare.
A reader sent us these photos of these two tourists in Dubrovnik today and they were taking it low and slow. Although the US flag could be seen flying from the bikes it is unsure whether they are actually American riders, or easy riders. However, wherever they are from it’s nice to see some different sights in the city.
I have to be honest I was more optimistic and positive about the summer tourist for this year back at the end of last year than I am today. Every day I am bombarded with mixed messages. I’ve spoken to people in Dubrovnik who have solid bookings already for the season and others, well the majority, who haven’t seen a guest since 2019.
It’s all vaccine, Covid-19 passports, travel bans and bankrupt travel agencies. It’s getting harder to sift the genuine facts from the opinion. And the few facts that are floating around don’t seem to be connected.
Are we actually sending tourists a clear message? As I’ve said a million times information is king. Give potential tourists all the info and then let them make up their own minds. We’ve got a slogan and to be honest that is about it. There are no bold steps, no creativity and seemingly no urgency.
To be honest Dubrovnik, and the rest of Croatia really, has always been extremely passive when it comes to tourism. Tourism basically happens to Dubrovnik; we aren’t the active factor in this industry. For years it’s been the same. We are always reactive and never proactive.
So whilst we are stuck in this never-ending game of waiting, waiting and more waiting, other countries, our competitors aren’t sitting on their hands and crossing their fingers. It’s been labelled as the “Battle of the Mediterranean.”
The PR campaign and organisation that our competitors are pushing forward. Greece has set a date, the 14th of May, as the day that tourism reopens, well the country reopens. Using the slogan “All you want is Greece” the Greeks have set clear guidelines for tourists wanting to enter the country.
Turkey have also set a date, more loosely than Greece, but as they are pushing forward with their vaccine process at an incredible rate, already 13 million people have been jabbed, they are confident that they’ll see a 100 percent increase in tourists this year compared to 2020. And by the end of May, 50 million people are expected to be vaccinated which will provide common immunity in society. 50 million! We have only vaccinated a fifth of the so called “at risk” groups and think about our population size.
The US is vaccinating around 2.5 million people a day. At that rate we could start the process on Monday and be finished by Tuesday afternoon.
I’ve spoken to people who are just fed up of waiting and have travelled to Belgrade to get vaccinated. I guess that’s kind of medical, or rather vaccine tourism. For 60 Euros you can get jabbed, it is all legal and no, they aren’t vaccinating you with water.
Croatia is losing the vaccine war, along with the Battle for the Mediterranean! Should we be turning to China and Russia?
Where would you rather go on holiday this year, to a country that’s already vaccinated 70 percent of its population or the second worst country in the EU in terms of vaccinations per size of population. There is much work to do and we’re already behind.
Just look around the Med and you’ll see a similar pattern. Tourism battles are occurring on every front. And yet we are waiting, just waiting, and probably hoping. Given that tourism accounts for such a large slice of the GDP this waiting policy is either extremely brave or extremely dangerous. Which one do you think it is?
For our fight to get tourists isn’t just with the global pandemic but with our neighbours. And as this rate it’s a fight we are going to lose. Over the past days I’ve received a number of emails from potential tourists, and indeed tourist agencies, to ask what the situation is and whether they can come this summer. We know the rules, we’ve known them for a long time, so we should be able to clearly communicate with tourists the behaviour expected and what they’ll need to come here.
Am I expecting a mass of tourists this year? No, indeed the days of mass tourism are probably behind us, and that’s a positive bonus of the pandemic. But I am expecting it’ll be better than last year, even though my optimism has been sinking like a pebble in the Adriatic recently.
I’m normally a “rose-tinted” glasses kind of person and hope dies last but I’m digging ever deeper into my optimism well. I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
The British national airline, British Airways, has postponed the start of operations on the route London - Zagreb until the end of June. Instead of March 28, as the company had earlier announced, British Airways plans to return to Zagreb only at the end of June, reports Croatian Aviation.
The company has cancelled all planned operations to and from Zagreb until June 21, apparently due to low demand and passenger restrictions between the two countries.
As of June 21, daily flights on this route have been announced, but it is clear that British Airways is likely to further reduce the number of weekly flights between the two cities. Also, there is a possibility that the start of operations will be delayed again, which British Airways has done several times since January, when it last operated on this line.
British Airways last flew to Zagreb around Christmas, operations were suspended when a new strain of coronavirus was detected in the UK, when Croatia banned flights from the UK, as well as many other countries in Europe and the world.
On the line between London (Heathrow) and Zagreb, Croatia Airlines operates, once a week, on Mondays.
The Civil Protection Headquarters of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County asked the Headquarters of the Central Committee of the Republic of Croatia to extend the duration of epidemiological measures that were previously in force in the wider Dubrovnik area as well as in the Neretva Valley until 11 April.
The proposal now includes three Pelješac municipalities: Janjina, Orebić and Trpanj. Such a decision was made by the Headquarters after a session held on Friday in accordance with the recommendation of the Public Health Institute of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and after meetings with the heads of local self-government units. It should be noted that the necessary epidemiological measures proposed by this decision do not apply to local self-government units from the area of the islands of Mljet, Korčula and Lastovo.
This decision would mean that café and restaurant terraces in the county would remain closed until at least the 11th of April, although coffee-to-go will still be allowed. Furthermore, all public events where more than 15 people will attend are prohibited, and only 8 people can be at private gatherings. Employees are advised to organise working from home, and introduce flexible work hours whenever possible.
The headquarters also recommended that primary and secondary schools that in the City of Dubrovnik, Konavle, Župa dubrovačka, Neretva Valley and the Municipality of Orebić should continue to be organized online, except for students in the final grades of secondary schools.
The measures will be in force from March 27 to April 11, when the County Headquarters will reconsider the epidemiological situation. The civil protection headquarters of the local self-government units from the area of Dubrovnik-Neretva County were ordered to carry out intensified supervision of all prescribed epidemiological measures.
Croatia is making waves in the UK as an ideal destination for digital nomads. With Brexit many digital travellers had the problem of work visas, but with the special 12-month digital nomad visa that Croatia offers that challenge was solved. And the British media have caught onto the fact that Croatia is becoming an incredibly popular destination for digital nomads from the UK.
Two popular British newspapers, The Mirror and The Independent, have recently published articles in which Croatia was presented as a desirable and attractive destination for digital nomads, said the director of the Croatian National Tourist Board in the United Kingdom, Darija Reić.
"Croatia is recognized in Great Britain as an attractive destination whose rich natural and cultural heritage is appreciated by the British. We are sure that our gastronomy, climate and nature will inspire many Brits to get to know our country even better as digital nomads and enjoy its benefits," said Reić, adding that these recent articles significantly contribute to the general visibility of Croatia as a tourist destination in this important market.
The Independent states that a special visa for digital nomads has been introduced in Croatia this year, making Croatia one of the few countries in the world where formal conditions for the life and work of digital nomads have been created. In the continuation of the article, the journalist writes about the promotional campaign of the Croatian Tourist Board "Croatia, your new office!", launched with the aim of presenting Croatia as an interesting destination with quality living conditions for digital nomads.
The Mirror in the article "Croatia's new remote worker visa allows Brits to come and stay for up to a year" lists the excellent living conditions in Croatia as digital nomads, emphasizing the unique natural beauties of Croatia, such as islands, national parks, interesting cities and beautiful beaches.